reviews

  • Françoise Gilot, The Telephone Call, 1952, oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 31 7/8".

    “Picasso and Françoise Gilot: Paris-Vallauris 1943–1953”

    Gagosian | 522 West 21st Street

    The details of Pablo Picasso’s public and private life are by now well known. No artist of parallel celebrity (is there one?) has been so written about—often enough in records as delightful to read as they are fundamental to art history. This is especially true of the memoirs written by the women in his life. Fernande Olivier, Picasso’s earliest companion of fame, spilled the beans in Picasso et ses amis (Picasso and Friends, 1930), recounting his Bateau-Lavoir high jinks—prize fights, recreational drugs—during the first decades of the twentieth century, when he and Braque were

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  • Paul Pfeiffer, Playroom, 2012, steel, glass one-way mirror, wood, MDF, fabric, upholstery, lights, 62 1/4 x 72 x 30".

    Paul Pfeiffer

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    To Johan Huizinga, author of the classic 1938 study Homo Ludens, it is the healthy, energetic civilization that is able to constantly engender new forms of play, whereas in decadent societies, highly organized systems of recreation and amusement become mere formal games. With its concise group of works, all from 2012, Paul Pfeiffer’s exhibition “Playroom” explored the spectrum of modernity’s forms of play, from “free,” fun and pleasurable activities to codified competitions in which profit or passive entertainment seem to be the motivating impetus.

    The most mesmerizing of these works is 100 Point

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  • Sarah Oppenheimer, D-33 (detail), 2012, aluminum, glass. Installation view.

    Sarah Oppenheimer

    P.P.O.W

    A thoroughly serious and accomplished maker, and unmaker, of both space and structure, Sarah Oppenheimer intervenes in architectural environments in ways that not only destabilize and reorganize the physical facts of those given sites, but also start to provoke realignments of viewers’ own native sensoriums. Encounters with Oppenheimer’s disorienting structural build-outs or trademark cuts, slots, or oculi—here, in her first solo New York show in over five years, represented by a pair of slyly intricate incisions that managed to simultaneously unite, separate, and alter conditions in the

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  • James Lee Byars, The Monument to Cleopatra, 1988, gilded marble, gilded wood, glass, 27 1/4 x 25 3/4 x 59 1/4".

    James Lee Byars

    Michael Werner | New York

    Throughout his long career, the great American mythmaker and Conceptualist James Lee Byars produced performances, sculptures, and installations that contained irreverent allusions to his own demise, from the performance This Is a Call from the Ghost of James Lee Byars, 1969, which involved a paper triangle printed with the request PLEASE LIMIT ALL TALKING TO THE SOUND OF O, to The Death of James Lee Byars, 1994, for which the artist rendered himself “invisible” by donning a gilt lamé suit inside a gold-leaf-covered room. Byars’s vanishing acts toyed with notions of spectacle and publicity—ploys

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  • James Welling, Glass House, 2010, ink-jet print on rag paper, 28 x 42".

    James Welling

    David Zwirner | 525 & 533 West 19th Street

    There are two dominant ways in which photographers have envisioned the landscape of the American West. One, glorying in the land and emphasizing descriptive specificity, is rooted in government-survey pictures of the 1870s; the other, wry and admonishing, arrived a century later under the banner of New Topographics. But outside its well-documented urban areas, how have American photographers framed the country’s eastern half? Eliot Porter rendered Maine foliage in Technicolor, Paul Strand spent time in New England, and Joel Meyerowitz caught seaside towns bathed in rosy Cape light, but prevailing

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  • George Maciunas, Foot in Shoe, 1973–77, offset print on paper, 10 1/2 x 8 1/2". From “Wooster Enterprises.”

    Wooster Enterprises

    Churner and Churner

    It’s a pathetic scene. Painful, even. In 1930s Paris, Marcel Duchamp hawks his Rotoreliefs from a booth at the Inventors’ Fair. “Like a smiling salesgirl,” Henri-Pierre Roché would recall. Obviously, Duchamp won’t be the last artist to test the strategic and commercial potential of modeling artwork as everyday retail merchandise. The cash register rings through Claes Oldenburg’s “The Store,” 1961, Keith Haring’s 1986–2005 Pop Shop, Christine Hill’s Volksboutique, 1996–, and Superflex’s Guaraná Power, 2004– (to say nothing of certain Louis Vuitton collaborations). But what a disheartening precedent.

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  • Michael Bell-Smith, Magic Hands, 2012, HD video, color, sound, 3 minutes 14 seconds.

    Michael Bell-Smith

    Foxy Production

    There’s a pretty vacancy at the heart of Michael Bell-Smith’s four new videos that is as nauseous as anything in Sartre. Drawing on the fatally bland aesthetic of the stock shot and the digital template, Bell-Smith’s recent exhibition “mbs_fp_090712”—his third solo appearance at Foxy Production—confronted the viewer with what remains when “content” (in the Web-age sense of the term) is stripped away to leave only palettes and placeholders. It’s not that there are no images in these frictionlessly smooth projections—no moves, no marks, no “creative” decisions—only that they

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  • Dennis Adams, Malraux’s Shoes, 2012, HD video, black-and-white, sound, 42 minutes.

    Dennis Adams

    Kent Fine Art

    For his forty-two-minute-long video Malraux’s Shoes, 2012, artist Dennis Adams disguises himself as André Malraux, a novelist, art historian, and politician who is known in part for his concept of the “museum without walls.” Malraux famously realized this museum in The Imaginary Museum of World Sculpture (1952–54), a three-volume cornucopia of reproductions of works of art from all cultures, a virtuoso demonstration of heterogeneity in art—deliriously varied and infinitely extendable. The museum-as-archive brings to mind T. S. Eliot’s line in The Waste Land (1922): “These fragments I have

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  • Ellen Gronemeyer, Gambling Caviar, 2012, oil on canvas, 37 1/2 x 45".

    Ellen Gronemeyer

    Kimmerich

    Is that a grin or a rictus? The kooky, bug-eyed faces that leer from the eighteen oil paintings in this exhibition raise the question more than once. Ellen Gronemeyer’s first solo exhibition in New York was titled with the German word Affentheater, or “ape theater,” the name for traveling shows popular in the second half of the nineteenth century in which trained monkeys were dressed in human clothes and made to perform acrobatics and imitate human behavior. Accordingly, the cartoonlike figures in her paintings imply discomfort, as if they had been painfully wrenched into their circumstances of

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  • Jessica Rath, Sisters small and different, 2012, ink-jet print on paper, 32 x 41".

    Jessica Rath

    Jack Hanley Gallery

    Jessica Rath’s large-format photographs of apple trees in winter, all made this year, have a kind of alarming beauty. Taken with clinical precision, the ten images portray the barren trees against lengths of white muslin, either alone or in a row, rising up from a scrubby ground that is in places littered with bruised and rotting fruit. The blank backdrops and bare branches emphasize the shapes of the trunks and configurations of branches—the “architecture” of the trees—inviting the viewer to track the differences between each image: Some trees have a narrow, columnar shape, others

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  • Simryn Gill, My Own Private Angkor, #33, 2007–2009, gelatin silver print, 15 1/2 x 14 3/4". From the ninety-part suite “My Own Private Angkor,” 2007–2009.

    Simryn Gill

    Tracy Williams, Ltd.

    My Own Private Angkor, 2007–2009, is a document that looks like a dream. Simryn Gill’s suite of ninety black-and-white photographs, which has previously been exhibited at the 2011 Istanbul Biennial, was taken near Port Dickson, Malaysia, a seaside town that in recent decades has been developed as a beach resort. Gill, who will represent Australia in next year’s Venice Biennale, made these images in a housing complex that was constructed there in the 1980s but then abandoned and never occupied. At some point, the houses were ransacked for metals to be sold as scrap; among other things, the vandals

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  • Mark Flood, Billy, 1983, collage, 34 x 22".

    Mark Flood

    Luxembourg & Dayan | New York

    Mark Flood’s exhibition “The Hateful Years,” curated by Alison Gingeras and surveying work from 1979 to ’89 (though including paintings from 2012), brought a materialist dialectic to lifestyle choices that refuse to distance themselves from decrepitude and degradation. The installation Punk Rock Crash Pad, 1979–86, covered the walls of the gallery’s attic in the black plastic of garbage and body bags; on the floor was a mattress, presumably occupied by a young rocker, a stand-in for the artist, who had been a member of the punk-noise band Culturecide. Flood’s piece replicates the narrative

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